Dancing in His Arms: Review

We are a very musical family. My girls are all learning piano, Rose plays the ukulele and Grace is exploring rhythm and beat with bongos. She’ll start drum lessons online very soon. Beth sings beautifully! Whenever there is opportunity I encourage the girls to participate in leading worship. They sing, play instruments, and find unique ways to serve the Lord. 

When I met Becky Lou Eller at a homeschool conference I was immediately drawn to her joy for life and love of music! She has such a passion to share Jesus with children and to pass along the wisdom of God’s Word. Her CD, Dancing in His Arms, is a beautiful compilation of Scripture put to music. 

These songs are absolutely charming! They are word-for-word verses set to delightful music of a variety of styles. Pslam 71:3, Lord, You’re a Rock to Me! is set to a bluegrass style and that is my particular favorite. I find myself singing this one to myself quite often! Each tune is quite catchy and very singable. There is also one for the books of the Bible which is always a handy way to teach kids how to locate Scripture. I still find myself singing through the version I learned as a child, especially for the Old Testament.

My girls really enjoyed listening to this CD at night for bedtime as well. They are all sung by the sweet voices of children. While the songs vary in style from lively and upbeat to calming, it was a good fit because nothing is too over the top. It’s also wonderful to be lulled to sleep by the Word of God! 

In addition to the songs, there is a wonderful , 5-part Bible lesson with activities and wonderful discussion questions. I’ve been teaching Bible with kids since I was in middle school helping with VBS at the church I attended then. These lessons are simple and easy to follow no matter your experience. I appreciate this so much in Bible teaching plans because sometimes the assumption is the person has taught before and will just know what to do. Other times the activities are complex or structured in a way that doesn’t always make sense. This can leave a new teacher confused and ready to quit! Not so with these lessons. They are simple, but still deep enough for excellent discussion. 

We used them for a Bible time together in the mornings. We usually have our family devotion and prayer in the evening, so it was nice to add something together in the morning as well. The girls enjoyed it and we had good discussions! Many times the concepts were ones that we have talked about before, but there were new verses to look up and it is necessary to be reminded of all truth about God over and over, lest we forget. 

Our next step will be to purchase the music! I really want the girls to sing a few of these songs in our church service. 

I highly recommend this CD and the corresponding Bible lessons for your homeschool or any other group you will incorporate Bible into. It’s a lovely way to memorize Scripture and will be a great encouragement to you!
Disclaimer: I received this product from the author in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. 

The Carols of Christmas: A Booklook Blogger Review

Christmastime is here…

Okay, so not really, but who is with me in looking forward to the Christmas season? One of my favorite things about the holiday is the music. I have several books which talk about the stories behind the hymns, but I had yet to come across one which focused on the Christmas Carols…until now!

What first struck me was the simplicity of the layout. I love that each of the 21 songs are categorized into themes. Topics range from specific dates, to Scripture, to aspects of the season. I do think I would have preferred the topics be more consistent, like all Scripture references or all aspects of the season. There are one or more songs included, both religious and secular. I was a little surprised to find the secular songs included, but found their stories just as interesting. 
I was pleasantly surprised by the details in this book. Each of the songs is studied in depth to a degree I did not expect. The author delves into the backgrounds and lives of the lyricists and composers in much more detail than I thought. While it is interesting, in some ways it distracts from what I am most interested in, which is a concise understanding of the song’s story. There are also moments of explanation about the musical aspects, which as a musician I did find interesting, but I think it could be a little too much information for those who may not be musically inclined. 

Perhaps it is because of my experience with other stories-behind-the-songs books, but this one did not keep my attention the way I had hoped. I would most likely use this as a reference book rather than just sit and read it through for pleasure. Still, the writing is high quality and well done and I think it would be very helpful tool for musicians and church leadership alike during the Christmas season.

Lightening Bug Lullabies: A Review AND Giveaway!!!

Our family loves music. All three of my girls play the piano and sing their way through life, sometimes familiar songs and sometimes their own made-up tunes. We listen to everything from classical to KLOVE, but the girls enjoy music geared towards them. One of our absolute favorite singers is Mrs. Kate Carpenter. Her music is loved by children all over the world…I know because her grand-kids live in in Ecuador! 

Mrs. Kate’s music glorifies God and His creation in each note. She has concerts in all sorts of venues including churches, schools, nature centers, libraries, and festivals, drawing a crowd at each event. Our church had the opportunity to host her a couple of years ago and all the children who attended had a fun-filled time!

Mrs. Kate’s newest release is Lightening Bug Lullabies. I have to say, this may be my favorite! Of course, I feel that way every time she has something new. The songs are perfect for bedtime with just the right mix of cheerful and relaxing tunes that will soothe your little ones to sleep.

We allow our girls to listen to stories at bedtime on the weekends, but on school nights we only allow them to listen to lullabies. They ever since we received this new collection of music they have listened to it every night…every night. Even on the nights when they listen to stories, I’ve had whichever girl was still awake come and ask if they could put Mrs. Kate in the CD player for them to fall asleep to. This is a true sign of how lovely it is. They usually want something new every couple of nights, but after several weeks they are still enjoying Lightening Bub Lullabies.

We were delighted on day when they were singing one of the songs in the car. They graciously let me video them again at home so you could hear one of their favorite songs from the CD.

Adorable, right? Now don’t you want to hear your little ones singing this? To get these songs for yourself you can visit Mrs. Kate’s website or download from any major internet store including iTunes and CD Baby. I assure you that you will be blessed by all of her music and especially this newest release. 
Now, thanks to Mrs. Kate’s generosity, ONE of my readers will be blessed with a copy of the Lightening Bug Lullabies CD! Enter below! 
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Lightening Bug Lullabies to review from Mrs. Kate Carpenter. This review is my own opinion and I was not required o write a positive review. 

Signing Time Christmas Collection Review and Giveaway!

It has been a loooooooong time since I’ve had the opportunity to run a giveaway and I’m super excited about this one. My kids always enjoy the many products we review, but they were over-the-moon giddy! Learning Christmas signs with American Sign Language has never been more fun!

We discovered Signing Time only few years ago when my oldest daughter stared asking me if she could learn sign language. We taught my daughter basic baby signs when they were infants after two of my piano students who were sisters began teaching her at 6 months old. It was such a blessing to us and we continued to teach our next two daughters the same basic signs. I had no clue there was such a wonderful company like Two Little Hands Productions or we would have begun collecting them years ago!

The series was completed several years ago, but through crowd-funding in 2013, the Signing Time Christmas Collection became a reality. Fans of the show new and old showed their support and raised well over the amount needed for production. I’m so excited to have been chosen as one of the 25 bloggers given the opportunity to bless one of my readers with this brand-new collection for Christmas!

My girls were absolutely giddy when they started watching. Since we were reviewing the digital copy, I had a chance to surprise them and the light in the girls’ eyes as the Signing Time theme song came on was just delightful. Rose’s first comment was, “Oh! Alex and Leah are so grown up!” She’s right and I think it is just so neat that even grown up they were part of this very special Signing Time.

All of us loved learning the signs for Christmas songs. Rachel has many new songs included in this collection as well as familiar Christmas favorites. I’m so grateful she included the traditional carols as many trending Christmas shows and movies are drifting towards more modern songs. I love all Christmas songs, but the neat thing about these is my girls can sign along with their favorite carols in church on Sundays. Rose’s favorite song was the Signs of Christmas and Grace loved Silent Night. Beth said she loved them all and couldn’t pick just one!

I loved how Rachel goes over each sign prior to the songs and taught them so very clearly. My girls will be signing Silent Night with some other children as part of our annual church Christmas dinner in a few weeks. This will be a great way for them to practice!

This newest Signing Time collection is a must-have! We love it and have watched it several times already. You can now purchase either DVD copies or digital copies of your favorite Signing Time episodes. They even have a digital subscription option which can allow you access to everything produced by Two Little Hands Productions!

And now for the promised giveaway! You don’t want to miss this incredible opportunity! I sure wish I could give this to all my readers, but since only one of you will have the chance to be blessed, take a minute to earn some entries! (Pssst…some you can do every day!)

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GoWrite! Dry Erase Music Staff Roll: Review

Pacon is an excellent company known for supplying schools with creative resources for both teachers and students. I’ve been more than pleased with the products I’ve used from this company and couldn’t want to try out their GoWrite! Dry Erase Music Staff Roll. This large music staff comes rolled up and adheres to smooth flat surfaces without leaving any residue when removed. It can also be moved to new locations without additional adhesive. The dry erase surface make this reusable tool a must-have for any music teacher. I had no idea what I was missing! 

I currently have 29 piano students I teach each week from my home. It is an incredible blessing, but because it is my home I do not have access to all the things a traditional classroom teacher might have, one being a large music staff. I remember my band teacher and elementary music teacher having a large chalk board and a chalk holder to create a music staff any time they needed one. Well, I certainly don’t have room for a chalk board. I do have some smaller dry erase staves, but this new resource is just what I had been missing in the space over my piano. 
Our dining room is now the music/school room and it functions well even though space is tight. This is a perfect size for the space we have and easily adhered to our walls. I used this throughout the summer and the humidity of the south encouraged the corners of this board to start to peel off the wall. I contacted the company who has excellent customer service. They informed me the adhesive works best on non-porous surfaces such as white boards. I determined to find a solution to my peeling corners since adding a non-porous surface wasn’t an option. I simply added poster double sided sticky poster hangers to each corner. This did nothing to damage the roll and has kept it in place nicely for several weeks now. 
I have found several uses for this teaching tool and have ideas for several more I haven’t implemented yet. I keep the standard musical mnemonic devices I do this because I think it is beneficial to memorize these and the more a student sees it, the more likely they are to remember it. I also have taught some basic music notations and how to draw them.

This my sweet Beth practicing!
This was the first things my students noticed when they started back with fall lessons this year and they all told me how cool it was! I reference it for music note names all the time. While I’m never going to have the resources large studios and music schools have my students are now able to have one more tool to help them in their work. I highly recommend this to any music teacher. 

Disclosure:  I received this product from the Pacon in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own

101 Color & Sing Bible Stories: Review

Grace is my youngest and as the youngest she often gets hand-me-downs for just about everything, especially toys and books. She has a few things that are her own, but just by the course of life almost all her books were once her sisters. She was over-the-moon excited to have a new Bible story book all her own! Grace has grown up knowing all about God and the Bible and enjoys reading the same stories over and over.

101 Color & Sing Bible Stories by Stephen Elkins is a great addition to our library! We have well over 10 Bible story books and that doesn’t even include individual storybooks with Biblical themes. I wondered if this would capture Grace’s interest, but I should have known she would love it!This is much, much more than your average Bible for kids!


For each story there is a child-friendly reading which has the Scripture reference clearly shown, a song to help retain what they learned, and a coloring page which matches the illustration provided. This is one of the most interactive Bible books I’ve seen for kids, and I’ve seen a lot. While the content may be predictable as it is laid out in chronological order this makes it all the more loved by kids. My daughter already knew what the next story would be because she knows the basic order of creation.

Her favorite part so far has been the CDs. She loves listening to the music during her rest time and alternates between the two CDs. Some songs were new, but most were the traditional Sunday School songs my husband and I grew up with. She loved this as well because she immediately was singing along with them all!

This is a great Bible Story book for toddlers and preschoolers whether you have many on hand or this is your first one. The teaching is solidly biblical, yet not too deep for them to understand and the music and coloring pages are the icing on the cake! 

Disclaimer: I received 101 Color & Sing Bible Stories from Tyndale Publishers as part of  the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and did not receive any other compensation. 

Mrs. Kate Carpenter’s Hug-a-Bug-a-Boo DVD: Review and Giveaway!

Mrs. Kate Carpenter has been a friend of our Family for a long time. Not only is she a dear friend, she is also an amazing song-write and singer! Her fun folk tunes engage audiences of all ages. We had the chance to have her in concert at our church a few weeks ago and the girls were so excited to see Mrs. Kate in person! If you didn’t read it yet, check out the field-trip post!

Hug-a-Bug-a-Boo is Mrs. Kate’s newest DVD release. We own several of her DVD’s as well as her first DVD. I’m glad it’s not a VHS because we would have worn it out by now! Mrs. Kate uses song to teach kids about manners, positive behavior, nature, and more. She even has a potty-training song included which leaves all of us laughing. Mrs. Kate and her guitar will have you humming and dancing as you follow along with the motions to the catchy tunes.

My girls love these songs. Some they knew already and others were new. One of my new favorite songs was Habit the Rabbit. Habit teaches kids all sorts of important manners such as not interrupting (except for emergencies!) and texting while interacting with others.

My girls favorite new song from the DVD Colibri  which is Spanish for hummingbird. We have thoroughly enjoyed the hummingbirds around our feeder this past summer and this fun little song has left us anxious to see them again next year!

I love that Mrs. Kate’s faith comes through in all her music. Even if the songs do not come directly from Scripture her heart for Jesus shines through with every note. She often has the opportunity to present anti-drug and anti-bullying programs in schools, both public and private as well as community groups and libraries.

And now for the awesome giveaway! 

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Field Trip: Mrs. Kate Carpenter Concert!

(All music title links will send you to hear the full song on Mrs. Kate’s website!)

A field trip on a Sunday? Not usually, but I just had to write about Mrs. Kate Carpenter’s concert we just came home from. She is a a very dear friend of ours and we were so excited when she called to say she was coming on tour our way all the way from Florida! We’ve been Mrs. Kate fans for a long time and Rose even named her first baby doll Baby Kate after her! 

Mrs. Kate is a pastor’s wife from Florida and sings inspiration and motivational songs for kids and adults. She is passionate about sharing Christ with the world and uses her music to inspire. She also frequently performs in schools for anti-bullying and anti-drug programs. Her lively folk tunes get everyone moving and her concerts are full of audience participation much to the joy of the children!
Beth got to be one of the first helpers and used her baton to march along with S-M-I-L-E. This is huge. I just can’t tell you how huge! Beth loves to sing and has a beautiful voice, but I have not been able to get her up in front of anyone for something like this, even when the kids sing! She has had once of the worst cases I’ve seen of stage fright, but this time she actually volunteered to participate and had a blast doing so. 
Rose helped out with Lord This is Your Day and Habit the Rabit Loves Manners. She wanted to do every song! She also used to have stage fright, but thankfully this has passed for the most part. She has grown up with Mrs. Kate and just loved the chance to see her in person. Mrs. Kate also spent some time in our home this afternoon. It was like hosting a celebrity. 
Little Grace didn’t want any part of being on stage…until the very end! She sang Down Under…sort of. You can see her there in the green pants. She seemed much more nervous than I expected, but she was excited to hang out on stage with Brooke, Mrs. Kate’s assistant. She loved her and enjoyed playing with her all afternoon. 
Mrs Kate is a celebrity in our house and the afternoon as been one filled with giggles and glee. Her assistant, Brooke, spent all afternoon playing with the girls and spending lots of time with them. Take some time to check out Mrs. Kate’s music and like her facebook page. She is a simply fabulous musician, but her character and passion for Jesus are greater still. I am privileged to call her my friend. If you ever have a chance to go see her in concert, don’t miss out! 

Homeschool in the Woods’ Composer Activity Pak: Review

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As a music teacher one of the things I lament about my 30 minute lesson slots is that I don’t have time to teach my students very much about the composers whose music they are playing. I might give some background, but there simply isn’t enough time. In addition, most of my students are in traditional schools which do not have time to cover things like music history alongside their standard curriculum. I was very excited to have the opportunity to complete the Hands-on History Activity Pak: Composer from Homeschool in the Woods. This is the first lapbook I have ever completed with any of my children and I was very pleased with how beautiful all of the graphics were. Many lapbooks I have seen do not appear to be as concerned about attention to detail as the lapbooks from Homeschool in the Woods. 

 photo ComposersGroup-SMALL_zps73a0d718.jpgThe lapbook may be purchased as either a download ($18.95) or CD (19.95) and is geared for 3rd through 8th grades. While this is a bit more costly than other lapbooks I have looked at (not completed) I feel this has more artistic and detail focused graphics than cheaper versions. Included are instructions to guide you through the process. I had a difficult time understanding exactly how to put everything together at first. This may have been due to the fact that I’ve never completed a lapbook, but it took several readings for me to feel I understood everything exactly. The printed pages are labeled at the bottom which makes assembly  little bit easier.

Rose is finished up 2nd grade so I helped her quite a bit with the assembly since she is on the younger end of the age range. I had some assembly trouble and accidenitally attached the composers all upside down! I probably shouldn’t have helped her as much because she is a perfectionist at heart and would have noticed this rigth away. Older students should be able to do the assembly on their own.

Rose really enjoyed coloring the various pieces of the lapbook and cutting out the pictures of the composers. This ignited her interest to start learning right away! She has also spent quite a bit of time studying the composer cards on her own which has been fun to watch. We would listen to some of the included music while she did this which also inspired her desire to learn.

I like how neatly the materials were arranged. I could easily figure out what I needed to print from the files and match it up with other correct items. Rose did get a little tired of cutting, but she is a little younger than the targeted age, so I’m sure this is why. I had to remind her that it was okay not to be perfectly cut straight edges. 

loved that Rose was inspired to learn about many different composers, music styles, and music periods. She frequently ran to tell me exciting facts as she read them in the large stack of books we checked out from the library.

I did make a discovery about myself…Lapbooking is not my preferred method of instruction. I have heard the wonders of lapbooking exclaimed all across the homeschool blog world, downloaded numerous freebies to try sometime, and have thought they looked like so much fun. I’m a scrapbooker at heart, so I’m surprised that I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. I think the reason ultimately boiled down to the preparation time. I’m spoiled by our regular curriculum which is very open-and-go. I don’t have to go to the library to check out books, or print a large amount of papers, or spend a lot of time preparing for our lessons. 

Rose did enjoy this study. She likes to learn on her own so lapbooks are a good fit for her personality. Lapbooking is something much more suited for our family for the summer for my girls to pursue their own interests. 

Even though lapbooking in general is not something I enjoy I highly recommend this company if you like lapbooks. They are beautifully done with clear instructions which create a lovely keepsake for future reference. I am keeping our finished lapbook to use with my piano students to give them more information about various composers and perhaps ignite their interest in music history as well!

Don’t forget to check out the other reviews by my Crewmates!

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Adventus MusIQ Homeschool: Piano Software Review

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Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My parents tell me I asked to take lessons of all the typical girl interests: dance, gymnastics, horseback riding, and piano. They wisely asked me to choose one and I chose, much to their pleasure, piano. They of course told me they wanted me to do lessons for a year before deciding if I wanted to continue. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with music and making music with the piano. I loved it so much, my parents would typically have to force me away to work on my homework. Believe me, this is not typical for music students. I should know this since I now teach piano.
Grace “practicing” before she could even walk!
Thanks to my parents providing me with lessons from the time I was 8, I now have 24 students in my home each week, two of whom are my own sweet girls! I love teaching, but I understand all too well the financial aspect of music lessons. There are often families who inquire after music lessons only to discover they are not financially able to move forward. Adventus has created and excellent, affordable alternative for students to begin piano lessons for families who cannot afford traditional instruction. MusicIQ Homeschool is perfect for use by anyone, even if you don’t have any musical background.
 photo musiqhomeschool-software_zps4cb3ceea.jpgThere are seven level options which include software, lesson plans, activity, and theory sheets. Parents can choose a monthly subscription for $10.95 which allows access to all levels of the entire curriculum. For families who would prefer to pay one-time the younger beginning three levels (ages 4-10) are priced at $89.95. The level used for ages 10 and up is priced at $109.95. Two separate level of ear training are only $59.95 each. To give you an idea of how this compares to traditional lessons, one month of private piano instruction provided by me, in my own home costs $60. You can easily see the price comparison!
Families do need to own a midi piano (which can be purchased directly from Adventus along with the curriculum in a package) since you must connect the piano to your computer in order to use the software. This would be an investment made for piano instruction anyway if the family did not already own a piano. I can assure you that anyone who learns to play on a keyboard can easily make the transition to a traditional piano. Over half of my students play on midi keyboards and have no difficulty playing on the grand piano at our church for their recital. There is a difference in key weight, but it will not cause any problems moving from one to the other. 
For some, 4 years old may seem quite young to start learning music formally. I have successfully taught several 4-year-olds. Both Beth and Rose began lessons when they were 4. I hadn’t planned to start teaching Grace yet…she is only three after all! I have been “teaching” her a lesson every Friday along with her sisters, but it has been mostly to appease her pleas and hadn’t amounted to much…until I opened Year 1 on my computer and took a look. Much to my surprise the beginning lessons were similar to what I had been teaching her on my own (low and high notes). 
Grace was quickly drawn into the program. I love the immediate immersion for students into classical music and composers. One of the things which is difficult to include in traditional 30 minute music lessons is information about composers and their music. Various composers introduce each lesson and music by the composer is played at the beginning and end. The music is also used during the practice sessions. Another fun aspect is that music composition is encouraged from the very first lesson! 
The reason Grace was so quickly able to succeed with these lessons is that the concepts area taught without using traditional musical scores. High notes are called bird notes and low notes are called whale notes. When she was asked to play bird notes, she learned to play notes above middle C. When asked to play a whale note she knows to play below middle C. The program encourages students for correct answers and correct for wrong ones, giving them an opportunity to fix it during the practice sessions. Placing a sticker on middle C is a trick I’ve used with all my beginning students, especially the youngest ones. I used this technique with Grace as well because it is difficult for young students to recognize the pattern of the black and white keys.
Even though my older daughters have been taking lessons for a while (Beth – 2 years and Rose – 4 years) there was still opportunity for learning through this program. Beth completed several lessons from Volume 2. She very much enjoyed Ms. Melody in the practice room!

Rose has surpassed the lessons offered in all three levels of the Children’s Music Journey in what I have taught her already, but the music games were an excellent review for her. She frequently asked to play the games which were an excellent reward for after her daily practice. Everything from interval identification to ear training to note recognition is covered in the games. 
I also used this with a few of my students to review. I found the music note review to be very helpful both for assessment and practice. When I tell my students they need to review their note names I often feel they don’t really understand the necessity of this skill. After playing through the cookie factory game my students recognized exactly where they stood. The only thing I didn’t like was that the correct note was not identified when they answered incorrectly. I feel this would have been beneficial so they would have had a better chance to answer correctly the next time. 
This is an excellent program for families who are looking to begin music instruction but may not know how long their child will keep interest or have financial constraints. I also think this is a good resource for a traditional music teacher to have in their toolbox. My students who had the opportunity to use this program genuinely had fun and learned at the same time! 
To see this program in action watch the video below of my sweet Grace. Keep in mind she is only 3 1/2 years old! I’ll admit this is younger than the program is intended for, but considering she is daily surrounded by music instruction it isn’t surprising she is doing so well!

Don’t forget to read more reviews from my Crewmates!
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